The recent popularity of the serial Rocket Boys reminds us of a promise scrupulously kept. In a talk she delivered some years ago, oral historian Dr Indira Chowdhury, who is also the co-author of the biography, Masterful Spirit: Homi J Bhabha, along with Ananya Dasgupta, described the interesting genesis of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Everyone knows the present location of TIFR. Its birthplace was Kenilworth, the Peddar Road home in Bombay of Bhabha’s aunt, his mother’s sister Cooverbai Panday.
Announcing the plan during a lecture on cosmic rays, the grand architect of the country’s atomic energy programme had said: “When nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but find them ready at hand. I do not think anyone acquainted with scientific development in other countries would deny the need in India for such a school as I propose.”
And TIFR did indeed come to be founded with Tata support in 1945. It shifted to the Yacht Club before moving to Navy Nagar. The fifteen-acre sprawling campus on the sea was inaugurated by Nehru in 1962, establishing its status as one of the country’s most inspired institutions.